Category Archives: Part 1-2

Chapter 47: Giving In Pt. 3

“She deserves to know, Fiear,” Cyrus said coldly. Fiearius groaned and pressed his palm to his forehead. Twenty minutes ago, he agreed. Now?

“Does she though?” he asked grimly. “Does she really?” Before Cyrus could even answer, he growled, “And you know she wouldn’t take that as an answer anyway. She’d just go–I don’t know–try it herself and get killed.”

“So what, you’re just going to never tell her? Keep leading her on thinking you’ll help when you won’t?”

“No,” Fiearius snapped sharply. “I will help.”

Cyrus’ eyes widened. “Oh I see. You’ll just get yourself killed in her place. Great idea.”

“I don’t really have another option, Cy.”

“You mean besides just talking to her like a normal human being with decent communicative skills?” He shook his head. “You can’t step foot on that ship and come back from it.”

“Maybe,” Fiearius admitted with a shrug.

“Maybe?! You mean probably.” Cyrus rolled his eyes and held up his hand as he grumbled, “I don’t want to know what happened, really I don’t, but please tell me you’re not set on this out of spite.”

Fiearius glanced over at him, raking his hand through his hair. “No,” he decided firmly. “Maybe when I walked in the room…a little. But. No.” He looked away and stared solemnly at the floor. “It’s not spite.”

“So it’s stupidity then.”

“What?! Hey–”

“Trying to redeem yourself with a noble sacrifice?”


“Or do you really just care about her that much?”

Finally, Cyrus looked over at him, tilted his head and waited pointedly for an answer. He got none save for an averted gaze. “If you do, you shouldn’t be planning a suicide mission then,” he concluded at last. “You should just talk to her. Tell her the truth.”

Fiearius simply glared at the floor and shook his head and Cyrus groaned. “I don’t see why you can’t just be honest about it when–”

“Because I know what it’s like, Cy,” Fiearius interrupted at once, finally looking up at him with a cold hard gaze. “I know what it’s like to lose the person you care about more than anything and to know that no matter what you do, no matter how far you travel for however long, you’ll never see them again.” He paused and looked away again. “And I don’t want her to go through that. I don’t.”

Cyrus it seemed didn’t know what to say. After a tense silence, Fiearius spoke again, more calmly. “She has a chance. It might be small. But it’s a chance. If it were Denarian–” he swallowed hard, “–if it were my son? I would do anything. Absolutely fucking anything to get him back. So I get it. And I’ll do it. Because I told her I would. I gave her that hope that it could be done. And I won’t take that away from her. I can’t.”

A long silence passed between them. Fiearius rested his head in his hand and finally let out a confused, quiet laugh. “I guess Aiden was right. I am doing this for the wrong reasons.”

Cyrus looked down at his hands and then slowly up at his brother. “Sounds like a pretty right reason to me,” he commented with a shrug. The two siblings stared at one another thoughtfully until Cyrus cracked a weak smile and remarked, “Well. Impossible, right?” He turned back to the console with the blueprints. “We’ve done impossible before.” He smirked again. “How bad can it be?”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

For most of the day, Leta kept to herself, pacing her room, attempting to read, anything for a distraction. She knew she owed Fiearius a conversation and she spent hours rehearsing it in her head. I’m really sorry this happened, she’d tell him. I’m really sorry that I let things get out of hand …

She’d keep a safe five feet from him. There was no chance of this happening again, no temptation, no more slip-ups. No more late-night talks. No more story-telling with no one else around. No more whisky. After dinner, she vowed to do it. After dinner she’d find him to talk.

When she stepped into the mess hall that evening, she was startled to see most of the crew crowded inside already, filling the tables. No one was eating, but murmuring curiously and staring at the entryway expectantly.

“What’s going on?” she asked the room at large, slipping through the door.

“Cap’n called us all here for a meetin’,” grunted Rhys from his table. “Dunno why. Come have a seat, Luna.”

“Leta,” she corrected automatically, lowering into a seat beside Corra, who shrugged at her, equally as confused.

Seconds later, Fiearius materialized in the doorway. The crew hushed at once. It occurred to Leta there had never been anything resembling a formal meeting led by Fiearius in all her time aboard.

But it was clear now: something was off. Something was different. His expression was grave as he paused in the doorway, massaging one of his fists in a thoughtful sort of way as Cyrus hovered behind him. For the briefest of moments, their eyes locked from across the room, but then he moved his gaze to the side and addressed them all.

“At 1800 hours, the ship’s setting off for its next destination,” he said, his voice oddly calm. “Most of you, however, won’t be on it.” He waited a moment for the confused looks and hushed whispers of confusion to pass before continuing. “We’ll be heading to the prison ship TTD Baltimore to retrieve one of its prisoners.”

Shock hit Leta’s chest. She could feel Corra looking at her in surprise, but Leta didn’t move. She felt paralyzed and dizzy. They were going after Ren? Now? After all this time?

“It will not be safe,” Fiearius went on, not looking at her, but the whole crew, “It will not be easy. And I will not put any more people than are necessary in the line of that danger.”

With his audience once more completely captive to his word, Fiearius began to take paces across the floor, weaving his path in between the tables and speaking as clearly as he could. “Most of you will be departing over the next hour with any belongings you feel you need. There are arrangements already made for your lodging in the city. Give them my name, you’ll all be well taken care of. The only people I need on hand are myself, the first mate and the doctor. If you’re not one of those people, time to start packing.”

“However, I also would like two more able gun hands,” he went on suddenly, his eyes drifting vaguely towards Corra and Finn. “But considering the risks, I’m not asking. If anyone feels compelled to volunteer, let me know. Otherwise.” His eyes swept back across the entire room. “The ship will return here for you ideally by the end of the week. If it’s not back in a month?” He raised a brow at them curiously and shrugged. “Might be time to find a new ship.”

“If anyone has any questions, please direct them to someone who is not me,” he finished shortly with a bitter smirk. Then he turned to Cyrus. “Let’s get her started up, shall we?” He patted a wall of the ship affectionately.

As he turned to leave the mess hall, Fiearius glanced over his shoulder once more, scanning the room before his gaze found Leta’s. He met her eyes and gave her one slight nod — as if they’d agreed on something, something unspoken — and followed Cyrus downstairs.


Chapter 47: Giving In Pt. 2

Corra raised an eyebrow in concerned. “You alright over there, chika?”

“I don’t — I don’t know,” said Leta honestly. “I don’t think so.”

Leta stepped fully into the room, closing the hatch behind her as she lowered to the edge of Corra’s bed slowly. Corra perched on a rug on the floor, scooted towards her, curious and eager.

“Something happened last night.” Leta swallowed. “Between Fiearius and I.”

Immediately straightening up in defense, Corra looked suspicious. “What kind of something?”

The words were met with a heavy silence. The moment Leta muttered, “he kissed me,” Corra’s eyes went round.

“He what?!”

“Well — we kissed. It wasn’t just him. We both did.”

“Wait, what?” Corra gasped. “Explain. What happened?”

Leta pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I had to ask him something — ” When Corra flashed her a perplexed look, Leta went on,” — about the deal with Dez. He was in his room, I went up there, and then we started talking. About nothing. And everything.” Her chest clenched, but whether it was out of trepidation or tenderness, she couldn’t be sure. “And one thing led to another and we kissed.”

Corra blinked her eyes slowly, at a loss for words. “I’m confused. Why would you–you wanted to kiss him?”

A long, telling silence followed. Corra seemed to interpret it and her eyes widened even more. “So what does that–does that mean–” Slowly, she looked up at her, the most subtle of curious smiles starting to form on her face. “Do you have, ya know…feelings for him?”

No, said the voice in Leta’s head at once. No, of course not. Fiearius was crude, loud, arrogant and selfish. He got her into trouble more than he ever got her out of it. And she was engaged. She’d made a commitment to someone who was kind, generous, thoughtful …

But the words in her mind did not match the words that she exhaled weakly.

“I think maybe I do.”

Corra’s mouth fell open out of shock — and also, Leta realized, some kind of delight.

“Oh man, really?” she breathed in excitement, as if this were the most juicy piece of gossip she’d ever heard.

“But I — I don’t know,” said Leta quickly. “This is bad, Corra, and honestly? I’m probably just acting out of loneliness. I haven’t seen Ren in … “

“You know, I had a feeling he had a thing for you,” Corra went on briskly, ignoring her, “but I didn’t think it was mutual. I guess I shoulda seen it coming though, the way you two act and all.”

Was that supposed to be reassuring? That meant people had noticed the particular way she and Fiearius exchanged sidelong looks at dinner. The particular way they laughed at one another and then yelled at each other seconds later. The particular way she battled feelings of envy — actual, horrible envy — when she glimpsed him flirting with women in bars.

Guilt churned Leta’s stomach, and she put her face in her hands.

“How long’s this been going on?” Corra demanded suddenly. “And why didn’t you tell me?”

Leta could only guess. “Because I didn’t want it to be true?”

“Yeah, can’t say I understand your taste much…” Corra muttered, smiling. But the smile faded. “But what about Ren?”


“Corra, I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” Leta breathed fiercely into her hands. “I miss Ren so much. I don’t know why I’m — why this is happening. And I don’t know what to do about it, except pretend this never happened.”

“Aw, hey, c’mon,” said Corra gently, getting up to sit beside Leta and leaning her head on her shoulder. “It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’ve just had a real crazy year. I mean, you’re on a pirate ship in the middle of nowhere, you’ve been shot at, captured, this ship could go down any minute and to top it all off, you’re here because you lost your fiance. I’m pretty sure anybody with even the tiniest of hearts could forgive you for getting a little emotionally confused.”

Leta mustered a watery sad smile. “I think you’re going a little easy on me, considering I just technically cheated on my fiance.” She pressed her fingers against her eyes, willing away the scene entirely. “I just really shouldn’t care about Fiearius like this.”

At that, Corra murmured thoughtfully, then decided, “Yeah probably not, he’s kind of a jerk,” and cracked a mischievous grin. After a pause, she tilted her head. “So what’re ya gonna do?”

With an enormous effort, Leta slid her hands from her face. “Same as before,” she breathed. “This thing with Fiearius — whatever it is — it can’t change anything. I’m going to get Ren back.”

“Yeah?” Corra offered an encouraging smile that faded just as quickly as it had come. “Does Fiear know that?”

“I’ll tell him if I have to,” said Leta quietly, hoping very much she wouldn’t need to. “It’s always been this way. It’s why I stayed aboard, he knows that. It’s not as if — it’s not like I’m picking Ren over him, it isn’t like that.”

Corra grimaced. “He might not see it that way…”

“Well he has to. I’m engaged.” Leta forced her expression to harden, although she crumbled almost at once. “Gods, I shouldn’t even be thinking about this — or about him — “

“Hey, no,” Corra scolded at once. “It’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Ya can’t help the way you feel. And you guys have been through a lot together. Can’t fault ya for getting a little swept up in it.”

Leta didn’t want to admit it, but after a long, worried pause, she confessed, “I think I’m a lot swept up in it.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“No, that’s definitely the only other entry.”

“You’re sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.” Cyrus stared up at his brother blankly. “I’ve been reading ship blueprints since I was six. I’m sure.”

Fiearius cast him an annoyed glance before rolling his eyes and deciding not to care about Cyrus’ attitude for the time being. The judgy glares his little brother had been giving him since he’d learned to walk were bad enough. He didn’t also need the snarky know-it-all demeanor. As if everything else wasn’t enough.

“Thank you, little brother, for your expert opinion,” he barked, folding his arms over his chest and leaning against the metal wall.

Cyrus, however, was unapologetic. “You’re welcome,” he replied bluntly. “I’m serious though.” He started drawing lines around the blueprints with his finger as he spoke. “They’ve got this hangar that’s big enough and versatile enough to accommodate any needs they might have, they don’t need a ton of entry points. Anything that comes in, comes in through there. These hatches,” he circled five more points on the map, “are only there to satisfy emergency protocols. They’re probably sealed shut from the inside and even if they’re not, there’s no way you, on your ship or any ship can reach it. This whole section right here,” another drawn line over the screen, “Visibility points. Even with a cloaking device, they’ll just look out the window and our cover’s blown.” He grimaced thoughtfully and looked back at the screen. “They’ve really got this place locked down…How has anyone else broken out?”

Fiearius sighed and gazed at the screen emptily, an image he’d spent far too long staring at over the past few weeks and one he’d probably be staring at even longer for the upcoming ones.

“They haven’t,” he replied shortly. At Cyrus’ look of surprise, he went on, “Not since the modern ships. Not a single breakout. Across the board. Totally clean.”

Cyrus frowned. “I can see why…” he muttered, sparing one last glance at the prints.

“It’s impossible,” Fiearius told him expressionlessly, utterly numbed to the concept by now.

“Have you told her that?” was his little brother’s quiet, hesitant response. The hard look of defeat Fiearius gave in return said it all. Cyrus frowned up at him and sighed, “You need to tell her.”

At once, Fiearius shook his head. “No.”

His frown flattened into annoyance. “No?” he repeated bluntly.

“No,” Fiearius said again.

Chapter 46: Cheap Gin and Low-Grade Explosives Pt. 3

“Get what?” said Leta, wishing privately that he would look away. “Just guess.”

Fiearius shook his head. “No, not that. I don’t get why you’ll tell me about your sexual history with professors — “

“I didn’t say that was true.”

“– and about your fall from grace … and about your parents.” He was still regarding her as if to work out some puzzle written all over her face. “Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?”

So they had arrived here then. Suddenly, unease fell over Leta and she toyed absently with an edge of the blanket. “I told you why,” she said softly, an honest admittance. “I wanted to take care of it. And I didn’t want you to feel responsible for it.”

But Fiearius shook his head. “I don’t buy that,” he said bluntly. “You don’t seem to mind me feeling responsible for anything else. So why this? Why didn’t you come to me with this?”

“Denial, probably. Admitting I was sick to you meant admitting it to myself.”

He didn’t seem satisfied with her answer.

“Don’t you trust me?”

Fiearius had a powerful stare. In this moment, his eyes reflected the light from the window overhead. Determined not to look away, Leta decided to merely confess.

“You know that I do.”

“So why didn’t you say anything?” he said bluntly. “You know, you must have known, that I could help.”

“You’re ridiculously confusing, you know that?” she told him suddenly, her voice steeped in something close to wonder. “You seem to hate it when I come to you to talk to you, but you hate it just as much when I want to take care of something myself. So which is it? Since I apparently have years of my life left now,” she continued, “I should figure this out, yeah? And — come on, Fiear,” she added suddenly, a sigh in her voice. “It wasn’t a matter of not trusting you with this. I already trust you with everything that’s important to me.” Namely, Ren, but it seemed unnecessary to bring her fiance into this specifically. Especially when she added, “Obviously, if I willingly told anyone, it would’ve been you.”

Fiearius fell thoughtfully silent, watching her with that same discerning stare that made her spine tense under the weight of it. Finally, his voice cut through the space between them. “Yeah, alright,” he muttered, relenting. “I guess…I’m no stranger to keeping secrets either.”

“No kidding.”

“Next time, though,” he went on firmly, pointing his finger at her. “You fuckin’ tell me if you’re dying alright? I don’t need to hear it from some shitty Paravian cop.” A worried smirk pulled at the corner of his mouth. “Just glad you pulled outta this one unscathed.”

“Not quite unscathed,” she corrected, suddenly pulling the edge of her pantleg up. The scar that ran up her calf was eight inches long and thick as a pencil. “See? I’ll be cut up like you soon enough.”

Before she could conceal the mark once more, she was given reason to pause: Fiearius, his eyes downcast, reached out his hand and began to curiously draw his calloused fingers up the marred lines of the flesh toward her knee, tracing slowly the scar with his fingertips, as if examining it.

“I like it,” he told her, his voice gone rather soft. “It suits you.” He ran his finger back down the line slowly. “All that perfect sheltered paleness…and one streak of darkness.”

A shiver rolled down Leta’s spine as Fiearius’ fingertips stopped near her knee again, freezing her in place and making goosebumps rise on her skin. She wasn’t sure if she could speak if she wanted to.

It’d certainly been a long time since she was touched like that.

Dismissively as she could manage, she said at last, “I don’t think I like it much.”

But it wasn’t even convincing to her own ears. When she flicked her eyes up to his face, her gaze went immediately to his own scars — the one that jut through his brow, the other that cut down his jawline. And he was watching her, too, a burn behind his eyes.

Truly, Leta wasn’t sure what she should have been feeling just then. Anticipation was coursing through her like an electric current. It was either panic or longing.

But she did not pull away.

Evidently, this was all the permission Fiearius needed — not that he ever asked for permission with anything — to lean in and lift his hand, gently grasping the side of her face. His thumb swiped strands of her hair past her cheek, the briefest pause, before he leaned in, closing the distance between them to capture her lips with his.

Feeble protests in the back of her mind swept away, and she was instantly shocked by the warmth and force behind his hungry kiss.

And for that, after her second of paralysis, she began to relax against his lips. The tension slowly uncoiled from her frame as she sighed shakily, relaxing against his hold on her, allowing herself to fall into the kiss in earnest. Below them, her fingers unhooked from the liquor bottle, letting it drop to the floor at her feet, before her forearm swept around his neck. Here, her fingers slipped through the back of his hair, knotting themselves there as she pressed herself closer.

His hand gripped the small of her back, so without breaking their kiss and without relinquishing her hold, she slowly leaned back so her shoulders and back found the bed instead.

His fingers were in her hair, his breath near her ear, his mouth lowered to her neck. But then all at once, Leta could not be beholden anymore. Behind her closed eyes, her vision flashed stark grey. The color of Vescentian’s flag, the darkened shiny marble of the buildings, all the structures that surrounded Ren’s stone casket.

The memory caused a scorching crease of pain to sear jaggedly down her spine, the slightest flinch in her face when she felt Fiearius’ mouth slope down her collarbone. The intensity of both pleasure and pain roused her into sobriety as she suddenly went rigid, sucking in a pained, hiss of a breath.

“Fiear,” she breathed, tilting her head slightly to the side, while her eyes flitted rapidly at the ceiling over his shoulder. “Fiearius. We can’t do this.”

Fiearius’ voice was a warm, hoarse breath on her neck. “Yes we can.”


He pushed himself up on his palms, concern in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

What had she done, what had she almost done? The warmth in the room was gone. She was cold and now, panic gripped her.

Leta sat up and put her feet to the floor, adjusting the collar of her shirt hurriedly. “We can’t do this, you know we can’t.”

Fiearius sat up in the bed, watching her as she edged to the door. “I don’t understand,” he said at last, bitterness in his voice. “Isn’t this what you wanted?”

“That — ” Her voice faltered. “That doesn’t matter. What I want doesn’t matter.”  Was he really going to make her say it? “I’m engaged, Fiearius.”

“Enga — “ He cut himself off, clasping his eyes shut and pressing his palm against his forehead. “Listen, your fiance, he’s–I can’t–” But whatever Fiearius was going to say about Ren, she never found out. Fiearius dropped his hand and looked over at her earnestly, even pleadingly.

“I’m sorry,” he said at once. “I shouldn’t have–I really shouldn’t have done that. But listen. Can we talk? Not here, maybe. The bridge or–”

“I think we’ve talked enough for tonight.”

Her words hung in the air, heavy with guilt. Leta knew if she looked back at him, she might not leave his room at all — so without glancing over her shoulder, she pulled open the hatch and slipped into the hallway, marching back to her own room alone.


Chapter 46: Cheap Gin and Low-Grade Explosives Pt. 2

“There had better be a good explanation for this, Cordova,” greeted the steely cold voice from the console speakers in the bridge. Desophyles leaned back in the pilot’s seat of his ship, examining the small black sphere of the Caelum Lex in his hand. He had one ear turned to the speakers patiently as other voices chimed into the meeting.

“To come so close to your target and to, yet again, allow him to escape,” said another man, full of ice. “We’re growing weary of this pattern.”

“You swore to us that you could handle this hunt,” spit out a woman, another member of the Council. “And yet four years have gone by and you’re still coming back empty-handed. Perhaps its time to reconsider your assignment.”

It wasn’t the first time the Council had threatened to reassign him. They had often considered the notion, but each time, they had come to the same conclusion: if anyone could catch Soliveré, it would be Dez. So far, he had not been successful.

But that would change. Soon.

Calm and formal, Dez replied, “I’m not empty-handed.”

“Yes, this…device you mentioned in your message,” the first voice went on, “Presumably you saw it within your rights to decide that this…thing…is worth more than the stolen property in Soliveré’s possession?”

“Of course not,” Dez told them simply. “But this ‘thing’ is a Caelum Lex, the missing piece in building a new terraformer. The only one in existence. The things we can use it for–”

“ — are not nearly as important as getting back what we’ve already lost,” interrupted one of the voices nastily. “You have one assignment, Cordova, and that is to retrieve Soliveré alive and return him to Satieri. It is not to independently collect assets you deem significant. Retrieve Soliveré. Return him. That’s it.”

Dez restrained the urge to bite back. He put his forehead in his hand, thankful that they couldn’t see him through the screen. “Which I am doing,” he said. “Acquiring the Caelum Lex was just a side effect of the plan.”

“Oh so you actually have a plan?” one of the voices snapped. “We were beginning to think you just enjoy wasting our time.”

“I have a plan,” Dez confirmed, ignoring the slight. “The girl.” Absently, he glanced over to another screen where an image of the Vescentian doctor glowed on the screen beside a list of records. “She’s the key. She’s his weakness.”

“What do you mean,” spat an impatient voice, “‘his weakness?”

“He’ll risk a lot it seems for her wellbeing. Lets down his defenses even. I can use that. I can use her.”

“Well for your sake, I hope you’re right,” said the voice bitingly. “This is your last chance, Cordova. Bring him back.”

The COMM system switched off as the Council disconnected one by one. In the silence that followed, Dez smirked in the darkness, still watching the image of the girl curiously. “Yes, sir.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“One: When I was a teenager,  I got too high, thought I was a trapeze artist in an opera and jumped off the balcony,” Fiearius was saying easily, leaning back on one hand as he swung a leg over the edge of his bed. “Broke a dozen bones in my body.”

Mid-drink of whiskey, Leta nearly choked on her laughter. “You what?


“Two,” Fiearius went on briskly, reaching over her lap to snatch the bottle from her hands, “I threatened to kill my high school principal’s prized show dog if he told my parents I hadn’t been attending for two years. And three: before I bought the Dionysian, I had never been off-world nor stepped on a ship of any kind.” He smiled proudly and tilted the whiskey bottle toward her face. “Guess away.”

As it were, Leta wasn’t particularly good at Two Truths and a Lie, although they’d been at it for a half hour now. It was the only drinking game Leta knew and she was failing, wonderfully and miserably, as the whiskey bottle dwindled between them.

“The uh — last one?” she guessed. “Is that last one a lie? Although I hope it’s the one about the show dog. You’ve done a lot of terrible things, but that’s got to be the worst.”

“I’m sorry, your answer is incorrect. Drink.” Satisfied in his victory of stumping her, Fiearius smirked broadly. “Don’t worry, I didn’t kill the dog. Nor threaten to. Did steal it though.” He shrugged. “Pretty sure the little guy was happier with me regardless. Anyway,” he said quickly, “Your turn.”

Leta crossed her legs together and sat up straighter on his bed, giving a distinct, important clearing of her throat. “One, I was devotedly religious until I was about seventeen,” she offered, her voice even and measured. “Two, I was valedictorian of my high school. And three, I almost went to school to study literature but my dad threatened to cut me off.”

Fiearius’ mouth fell open and he jumped at an answer immediately. “You were not devoutly religious. Were not. Not possible.” But he leaned in close to study her face, more intently than he’d ever looked at her. “Well…maybe it’s possible…” he muttered, hesitant. “Valedictorian I can see. Literature I can see. But I cannot ever imagine you on your knees praying for anything. Nor do I want to. It’s far too passive for you.”

“Well you’re nearly there,” she began, trying to bite back her smile. “First of all, I was valedictorian. And I do enjoy literature. Aiden and I had a nice bookswap going for awhile,” she noted, remembering fondly. “And now I have his library left to go through … but, I never considered studying it really. So yes — I was, in fact, religious. Can you imagine if I walked into a chapel now? I’d be struck by lightning.”

Fiearius barked a laugh of understanding, which was prompt for Leta to glance sideways at him in surprise.

“You know,” she mused, “I thought you’d have a stronger opinion on religion. I thought you’d hate the idea of it.”

But Fiearius merely shrugged a shoulder. “Nah, I’m not the one who hates religion. That’s Cyrus. Thinks it causes people to be weak and stupid. Blind, he says. It’s probably true. But I don’t really see the problem. I don’t buy into the whole package myself, but if helps some people? Whatever. To each their own.”

Fiearius stared at his bare feet for a moment before he looked up. “Alright, this is fascinating, but it’s my turn.” He drew a deep breath as though preparing for a performance. “One, Dez and I joined a ballroom dancing club because we thought it would get us more women. Two, I’ve only ever had one truly steady relationship that lasted longer than a month. And three, I had a lisp when I was a kid.”

At that, Leta could only gaze at him in surprise. “You’re good at this game, this one’s even more difficult,” she acknowledged fairly. How much did she want to know about Fiearius, anyway? Sometimes when she learned about  him it made her realize, alarmingly, how similar they were; other times, it created miles of distance between them.

In this moment, Leta was determined to keep it light. “When you and I danced at that gala months ago … you were pretty good,” she deliberated, her head quirked sideways as she looked him over. “But maybe you’re a natural. And the relationship thing — you seem like an all-or-nothing kind of guy, so I might believe that one,” she remarked slowly, thinking briefly of his wife, though she did not allow her thoughts to settle there for long.

“But a month is so short,” she continued, almost wincing. “Is your attention span really that bad? And then the lisp one, maybe that’s true. Maybe you were made fun of for it and that’s why you were such a bully,” she commented, and because it was her, and because it was him, this was not an insult. She grinned. “Or maybe you’re just naturally aggressive. But — the relationship one?”

His laughter was loud and warm.

“Ballroom dance club? Really?” He scoffed. “You don’t know me at all. And a month is short,” he agreed with a shrug and then admitted sheepishly, “But yes, so is my attention span. Or perhaps my ability to be stable…”

After a brief introspective pause, he went on excitedly, as though almost proud of this story, “I did have a lisp though. That’s true. Which was a pain in the ass. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Satierans have an annoying habit of having s’s in their names. Fiearius, Cyrus, Desophyles. Couldn’t say ‘em. So I was just the weird kid with the lisp who couldn’t read. It was fantastic.”

Leta laughed. “Gods, it’s hard to imagine you even having a childhood. In my head you’ve always just been a science experiment,” she admitted, eyebrows raised. “One gone badly wrong. Like if a chemist mixed cheap gin and low-grade explosives.”

Perhaps now affected by the number of shots he’d taken, he burst into laughter at her summation of his contents and creation. “Damn. You’ve figured out my secret. I was so sure that making up stories about my youth would convince you of my humanity, but alas, the real truth is revealed.”  He heaved a mournful sigh. “Your turn again.”

“Alright. Here’s a good one. One — I didn’t have my first drink until I was nineteen. “Two, I was named after my mom. Three — I slept with one of my professors in college.”

She paused to let this sink in, and Fiearius arched his eyebrows, looking intrigued and impressed. He squinted at her face, as if it might reveal the right answer. But the longer he watched her — too long, really — the more that thoughtful stare faded and softened into something else.

At last he said, quietly, “I don’t get it.”

Chapter 45: Other Arrangements Pt. 3

“Fiear,” she prompted quietly, slipping a hand over his forearm and taking backwards steps to the ship.

But he resisted her pull. “What other arrangements?” he demanded to know. “What does that mean?”

Desophyles just smiled and Leta tugged at his arm again. “Fiear, let’s go — “

This time, he relented, stepping backwards with her although his manic stare was still locked onto his old friend. “What the hell are you playing at…” he muttered quietly.

“Always a pleasure seeing you, Fiearius,” he called after them as they retreated. “Safe travels. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again soon. Real soon.”

Even from a distance, Leta could see the unsettling smirk that twisted his lips. But she pushed it out of her mind as she hurried downstairs to the infirmary and opened the prized, treasured med kit, to begin treatment at last.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Hours later and a system away, as she hovered nervously in the shadow of a building, Corra couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder, satisfying her paranoia that someone from the ship had followed her. Fiearius, maybe — after all, he’d be wildly horrified, furious if he knew —

But it seemed there were only two people in this dark alleyway, for better or worse.

At last, Dez broke the silence.

“This is it?” he murmured, turning the small black sphere over in his hand, admiring it in the dim light.

Corra’s eyes shot back to him, every inch of her wishing she was elsewhere. Fiearius was right: this man was completely unnerving. He was so — silent. And cold. Soulless as a statue. Every careful and calculated move he made gave her the distinct desire to bolt for her life. But she couldn’t. Not yet.

Not until she had a promise.

“Yeah, that’s it,” she assured him breathlessly, trying to sound more confident than she felt. “That’s a Caelum Lex. Last in existence.” Dez turned it over in his hand once more, cool and thoughtful.

Meanwhile, Corra was riddled with nerves and desperate to get back to the ship before anyone noticed she’d been gone. Gods, what would Leta say, if she knew she was making a deal with this man? But it was for a good reason. Fiearius’ plan to run never would have worked. And where would the Dionysian be without him? Corra didn’t have a choice. Surely Leta would understand —

“So we’re good, right?” she added quickly, and at last, Dez’s dark eyes flicked up to hers.

But he said nothing. She pretended that stare didn’t cut straight through her defenses. She pretended she didn’t feel the wave of paranoia that she wouldn’t be leaving here alive. She pretended she wasn’t more scared than she’d ever been. And she pressed on, “You let Fiear go, I gave you the Caelum Lex, that’s what you agreed to, right?”

Silence hovered between them. Corra could feel her panic starting to mount. Should she have ran? But just as her feet started to mobilize, he finally spoke.

“Yes,” was all he said. “It is.”

Corra nodded weakly and abruptly turned away to get the hell out of there. But on the edge of the alleyway, something made her turn back. Uncomfortably, she met his stare and said, “Just…leave the Dionysian alone, alright? Please. Just let us be…”

The dark eyes didn’t move, but something about them seemed to change. Was he smirking? Whatever it was, it made the skin on the back of her neck prickle, and she hurried away into the street, her heart still pounding.


Chapter 45: Other Arrangements Pt. 2

“Join the club,” Corra giggled. But her smile faded as she tilted her head. “What’d he do now?”

“He’s being an idiot,” she said bluntly. “He’s not listening to me at all.”

“What else is new.”

” — he’s going to get himself killed, probably,” Leta went on, “trying to do this thing — this deal — he’s planning on meeting Dez, if you can believe that — “

“Dez?!” Corra repeated at once, her eyes going wide. “Wait wait, is this the same Dez I’m thinking of? The creepy one with the dead eyes who’s been trying to kill us since before I even came aboard? That Dez? Why?!”

“He thinks he can help — help me with — getting information about Ren.”  Leta stumbled over her words, looking pained, and for one wild moment Corra thought Leta was lying to her. But that was nonsense. “And,” Leta breathed, “Fiear’s offering himself up as leverage — “

That, Corra didn’t find all that surprising. “Of course he is,” she grumbled. “Always loves to play the martyr…”

“He says he has a plan, but it’s not going to work.” Leta pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. “But he doesn’t have anything else to offer Dez in turn. Nothing of value. Except his fucking life — “

Suddenly, Corra felt the weight of the Caelum Lex sitting heavily in her hand. Something of value. Her expression went blank as she considered it. Maybe the universe wasn’t telling her it was time after all. And maybe she wouldn’t be getting that ship as soon as she thought.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Leta hissed sharply to Fiearius as he hit the controls to lower the cargo bay ramp.

“You don’t have to come,” Fiearius provided distractedly.

“Yeah right.” Leta crossed her arms, picking up a thread of sarcasm in spite of it all. “And let you have all the fun? Besides, this medicine is for me. If you’re going to die out there, I’d like to be there to watch.”

Fiearius glanced sideways in her direction, the corner of his mouth curving as if he wanted to smirk at her — one last time, perhaps. But the moment ended a second later: the heavy ramp creaked noisily to the ground with a final dull thud, metal meeting sand.

Miles and miles of desert sand stretched out before her eyes. Leta expected an empty landscape, but she was given reason to jolt in unpleasant surprise: about a hundred yards away stood the tall, solid figure of Dez, dressed in dark green and black, his Society insignia visible even from here. Behind him, his small jet-black ship was glinting in the sunlight.

“He’s here already?” Leta heard herself whisper, but Fiearius seemed not to hear her. His whole frame tensed, and his grip closed more tightly on the gun in his hand. Eyes set firmly on Dez, he started down the ramp, as if in a trance.

Walking at his side, Leta couldn’t help but recall the last time they’d encountered this man. The threat of Dez nearby had sent Fiearius — Fiearius, of all shortsighted, reckless people — into a panic. He’d grabbed her to make sure she was alright, and real fear had sparked in his eyes.

And now they were going to attempt a deal with him?

At least they had a plan, sort of: Cyrus was on call to ready the ship for an emergency take-off. Meanwhile, Corra and Finn had hidden themselves with long-range guns, waiting just in case Fiearius’ initial ‘turn and run like hell’ plan wasn’t as successful as he intended…

Hoping desperately it wouldn’t come to that, Leta stopped short in the sand and gazed over at Dez for the second time in her life.

Guns were readily strapped to his back and hip, looking every horrible inch the assassin he was, but in this moment he simply gazed curiously at Fiearius through squinted, narrowed eyes as he murmured curiously, “You made it.”

“Got the stuff?” Fiearius grunted. Dez said nothing. But he dug into the pocket of his trousers, slipped out a small med kit and held it out between them.

Leta couldn’t help it: as Fiearius passed over the kit for her examination, she exhaled sharply in shock and pried it open with a slightly shaky hand. Inside was an array of inhalers, syringes, the correct dosage of antibiotics …

“This is it,” she murmured, stunned that she was holding her own future in her hands. “This is — this is it, the right supply.”

Desophyles regarded her as she spoke, a hint of curiosity behind his cold eyes as he looked her up and down. “So it’s for her then,” he concluded. Slowly, he came back to watch Fiearius, looking bemused. “Interesting.”

“Is it?” barked Fiearius impatiently. His eagerness to leave was practically written all over him. And now was the time, wasn’t it? They had the medication, now was the moment to run, right? He wasn’t actually going to hold up his part of this deal.


But something, it seemed, was keeping him rooted in place. The two men continued to regard one another, as if the weight of all their history held them there.

“I suppose not,” Dez relented absently. “You always would do anything for a pretty face, wouldn’t you?” he mused, inclining his head toward Leta, who looked up in shock.

“And you’d always do anything for a pat on the back,” Fiearius growled.

A long smile ran slowly across Dez’s face. “And look where that’s brought us.” He spread his hands at the empty desert landscape surrounding them. “The only question left is which of us is more pathetic. You, risking your freedom in trying to save this woman? Or me, leaving behind everything to hunt you for the Council? A pretty face or a pat on the back?” He raised a brow. “At least my end goal is obtainable.”

Fiearius’ stare hardened, but his tone was even as he said, “And obtained. Here I am. Your hunt is over. You must be thrilled.”

Dez nodded slowly, but his words didn’t match as he stated simply, “Not today.”

For a moment, Fiearius didn’t seem to know what to see. His mouth opened in disbelief until finally, he demanded,” What?” Leta saw his fist clench at his side. “We had a deal. You get us the medication, I let you drag me back to Satieri. That was what we said. That was what we agreed upon.”

Desophyles sighed thoughtfully and shook his head. “We did. But I made other arrangements.”

“Other — ?” Fiearius began, perplexed.

Leta held the med kit to her chest. What the hell was Dez doing? He was letting them go? Was it a trap?

“It’s been taken care of,” Dez assured him calmly. He nodded toward the Dionysian over their shoulders. “You’re free to go. And you don’t have to run. I assume that was your plan, correct? The snipers were a nice touch. Though not very well-hidden. What did you tell them? Shoot to kill or just to wound me?”

Was it possible Dez was letting them go freely? Leta didn’t want to wait to see what the endgame was.

Chapter 44: Impossible Pt. 3

“And I’m taking care of myself,” she breathed fiercely. “Alright? I just need the correct medication. It’s just only in Society hospitals because it’s such an aggressive treatment, no drug dealer can get their hands on it to just dole it out on street corners, unfortunately. And obviously strolling into a Society Intensive Care unit is — ” Before she could stem it, a tortured laugh escaped her. ” — tricky. They’re rather protective of their medication. Not even an option –”

“Sure it is,” Fiearius interrupted at once. He spoke so confidently it actually threw her for a moment. But only a moment.

“No, it’s isn’t. Of course it’s isn’t. Remember what happened last time we went near a Society planet? This ship was almost blown up, if you recall.”  Leta clapped her forehead where she felt a fever prickle dully behind her flesh. “Gods,  you’re insane — “

“No I’m not,” was his immediate response as he shrugged one shoulder. “I do lifts like this all the time. If that’s the only place you can get the stuff, I’ll just go get it.”

Leta was agape. “You,” she breathed, “are not going anywhere near a Society hospital. None of us are. I’ve been looking for ways to get the medicine off the black market — ”

Fiearius furrowed his brow, crossing his arms over his chest. “Let me guess. Not going so well, is it?”

Leta faltered and fell briefly silent. It was even worse saying this all out loud. Especially to Fiearius. It was like being exposed, naked, right in front of him. Steadying her voice, she breathed, “It’s really risky to run with Society goods, no one wants to do it, and the people who do — they could sell me out  — ”

“Yeah,” Fiearius agreed shortly, still regarding her intently in that way that made her want to flee for the hallway or just punch him in the face. “I coulda told ya that. Ages ago.” His frown deepened. “I mean, if I knew.”

He was torturing her. Even when she was this close to death, he still enjoyed torturing her. For one awful moment, Leta felt the back of her eyes burn, but thank the gods she managed to laugh sourly, “Let me guess. You have an idea?”

Fiearius continued to glare at her, though the anger slowly started to fade into thoughtfulness. Finally, he answered with a careless shrug, “Yeah. I’ll just break into a hospital.”

Leta closed her eyes, an image of scolding. “Fiearius…. that’s impossible. You’re impossible.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” he muttered distractedly before releasing a long sigh. It was a long time before he even moved again. He merely stood, still and silent and staring upwards. Until finally he took in a deep breath and his eyes clenched shut.

“I think…” he began slowly, still not looking at her. “I think I know someone who can get it for us.”


Fiearius eyed her a moment and sighed again. “An uh — old friend,” he replied at last and seemed to want to leave it at that. But Leta just continued to stare at him expectantly until finally he continued, “Look, if anyone can get it, it’s Dez.”

It was, quite possibly, the least assuring plan Fiearius had ever conjured. She could have sank to the floor in disbelief.

“Dez?” An actual laugh breathed from her lungs. “Your old ‘friend’? The guy who has been hunting you? The last time we ran into Dez, I believe you made us flee for our lives –“

Fiearius rolled his eyes again and snapped, “Yeah I’m aware of that, thanks, but what other choice do we have? You’re right, I can’t go to the hospital to get it myself, there’s nobody who’s gonna risk dealing Society drugs especially not to Society fugitives and if they’re so uptight about keeping it locked up, we need someone who has that kinda access anyway or by the time it gets to us, it’ll be too late.” He took a deep breath and glanced seriously at the door. “Dez could get it and get it fast. Without issue. Dez is the only one. It has to be him.”

“No.” Leta’s voice, for the first time, was heavy with real worry. “No. We’re not going to him. Dez wants you dead, Fiear.”

“He doesn’t want me dead,” Fiearius corrected at once. “He just wants me returned to Satieri.” He paused. “And probably then dead. But it’s fine. At least I have something he wants at all. Leverage. It’s good.”

Leverage?” Leta repeated in disbelief. “You don’t mean — you’re not going to turn yourself in, are you? Please, gods, tell me you aren’t that stupid — “

“Of course not,” he growled, an image of irritation. “I’ll just tell him I will. And then take the drugs and run.”

“He’ll see that coming.”

“Probably,” Fiearius admitted. “But it’s our only option, so I’m taking it.”

“Absolutely not,” said Leta, full of steel, “We’re not using Dez. We’ll find someone else to help  — anyone else — “

But Fiearius shook his head. “Ain’t no one else, kiddo. It’s Dez or death.” He cocked a brow at her in challenge and then turned to stride through the door. Over his shoulder, he added,  “And to hell if I’m just gonna stand here and watch you die.”


Chapter 44: Impossible Pt. 2

Twenty minutes and a mad sprint along the docks later, and Leta had never been happier to be inside the Dionysian’s rusted walls. Somehow, amazingly, they had all made it aboard, and the familiar warm rumble of the engine below had never sounded more beautiful: at last, they were taking off.

“I’m never,” Leta breathed weakly, her lungs still burning, “going back to Paraven. Ever. This is the worst planet in the entire span.” She sank against a wall of the crew deck, catching her breath. Corra sat on the floor at her feet  and Finn was sprawled over an armchair nearby.

“Never doubted us for a second,” he said proudly, sliding his hands behind his neck. “We’ve all gotten outta worse scrapes than that. And hey, we oughta have a drink to celebrate.”

“It’s barely noon,” said Leta.

“I’m still hungover from last night,” added Corra, dropping her forehead in her hand. “I can’t even believe that worked,” she muttered. “Who would have thought flashing just a drawn-on librera would let us walk right out of there so easily?”

“Powerful mark, that thing,” Finn mumbled, sinking into the chair. “Maybe I should get one.”

Corra shot him a nasty glare and said sweetly, “Maybe you should. Might be fun watching Fiear try to kill you. I’ve always wondered who’d win in a fight.”

“Me,” said Finn simply, raising his eyes toward her. “It’d be me.”

“So what happened with that girl who got us out?” Leta intervened, recalling her with a start and straightening up off the wall. “What was her name? Richelle, yeah? Did she end up coming aboard? I didn’t see her when we were taking off — “

“Yeah, she ran upstairs. Probably to Fiearius’ quarters.” Corra rolled her eyes. “After all the trouble she went through, cap’n didn’t really have a choice but to let her come along I guess.”

“I guess we do owe Richelle some thanks,” Leta had to admit, trying not to imagine Richelle anywhere near Fiearius’ bed, “With that disguise of hers, she’s the only reason w — “

But she never got the chance to finish. Just then, footsteps pounded down the hall and Fiearius appeared in the doorway of the crew deck. The look on his face was one of such darkness that even Finn and Corra went wide-eyed and immediately still.


But he wasn’t looking at either of them. His gaze narrowed on Leta as he stormed into the room and growled out, “When the hell were you going to tell me?”

Leta was, quite simply, blank with surprise. “What?” she breathed, sidestepping his affront. “What the hell are you talking about?”

But then she felt her heart grow cold with realization. It wasn’t possible that he — how did he know — he couldn’t have possibly known about her illness. She’d slipped up once and Finn knew, but no one else; she’d kept it close and didn’t breathe a word to Corra, to Cyrus, nor to Fiearius.

Because if she didn’t say it aloud, it wasn’t real.

Her expression must have softened with emotion because Fiearius gritted his teeth as he regarded her. “So it’s true then.”

Somehow, Leta managed to ignore the alarmed stares from Corra and Finn and steel her nerves. And with that, came her defenses. He was cornering her like a caged animal, and her anger sparked and ignited.

“I — we’re not talking about this here,” she breathed furiously, averting her eyes as she went to edge around him, but she didn’t get far: abruptly, apparently in agreement, Fiearius seized her forearm and turned to drag her down the hallway.

It was useless to strain against his hold, but Leta still fought his hard grip as he manhandled her all the way downstairs. He was taking them to the infirmary, she realized with a start, which was particularly insulting: not only was this an attack from a bully, but it was going to take place in her own backyard? The infirmary was her own godsdamn sanctuary. Fiearius certainly knew how to make a point.

And for that, she shot him a deathly glare and jerked her arm away once they’d made it inside. She circled away just as Fiearius slammed the door with a bang that filled the whole room.

“I’ll ask again then,” he began impatiently, his eyes coldly on her. He stepped into the now-silent room as she pressed her back against the counter. “When the hell were you gonna tell me?”

“Tell you what, exactly?” she spat. Her hands dug into the cold counter behind her. “What is it you think you know?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he remarked innocently, and then narrowed his glare, “maybe that you’ll be dead in a week?

His words hit like a bullet in the chest and for a moment, she didn’t move. Six weeks, actually, replied the eerily calm voice in her mind, but all she said was, unclenching her throat, “I’ve got a little longer than a week. Lucky you.”

Her words hung in the air with a nasty sting that made Fiearius scoff in disbelief. “And how long have you been just not mentioning this? What, I’m not worth trusting with shit like this all of a sudden?”

“It’s not a matter of trusting you!” she cried, digging her hands into her hair. “I was going to tell you — when it made sense to. And I have plenty of reasons for not telling you. If you’d actually listen — “

Fiearius laughed, harsh and bitter. “Oh really? ‘Cause I can think of about thirty reasons you should have,” he barked as he halted in the center of the floor. Somehow his presence seemed to take up the whole room.

Swallowing hard in her throat, Leta paced a few steps before him. “I was stabbed in the fighting ring. Remember that?” she mused bitterly. “With a shoddy knife.” She crouched and yanked up the edge of her pantleg, exposing the seven-inch, thick scar that marred her calf. She could feel Fiearius staring at it, oddly, coldly silent, so she hurried on and stood up quickly, “It got infected. That’s why I’m sick. And that’s why I didn’t tell you. Because I was afraid you’d think it was your fault when it clearly isn’t,” she finished shortly.

Fiearius threw a hand in the air, instantly appalled. “Because I’d—what? Who the hell do you think I am? I don’t need you to fucking protect me.”

Leta ceased her pacing. “Look. I know you already blame yourself for Aiden’s death. This is the last thing you — “

Fiearius’ jaw unhinged. “Wait, what?” he demanded, incredulous and insulted; he looked ready to throw the nearest med cart across the room at the mention of Aiden’s name.

Chapter 43: Interrogation Pt. 3

“Rude,” Fiearius scoffed, jerking his head toward the young officer. “Interrupting like that … So, about that title.”

But Aster wasn’t listening to him, nor taking the bait now. He was standing before Fiearius, an odd glint in his eye, a grin growing on his face. “Don’t suppose you’ve seen this?” he prompted breathlessly, lifting the paper in his fist. “Or — can you even read?”

Aster was smiling so oddly that Fiearius, for the very first time, found himself quieting to let him talk, curious for this.  Aster seemed to be in no hurry to explain; he was taking his sweet time. “We found this,” he lifted the paper, “on your ship. In a dresser drawer. Belongs to a ‘Leta Ella Adler.’”

Fiearius felt a rather territorial brush of disgust. “You make a habit of digging through people’s delicates?”

“These are test results,” he went on, ignoring him. “Printed from your very own infirmary.” He seemed to be struggling to keep him smirking. “Twenty-four-year-old female with a rather grim outlook it seems. By the gods, don’t you keep medication on that ship?”

Fiearius stared at the man blankly, feeling nothing but a growing level of alarm. Soon, he found his ears were ringing. He had no idea what Aster was getting at, because it simply wasn’t possible that — that —

“She’s dying, you stupid fuck,” he clarified bluntly, before looking struck with false surprise as he shook the paper right in front of his face. “Of blood poisoning. What’s the matter? Didn’t you know? One of your own crew on your own ship dying of something simple antibiotics could fix and you don’t even know?” Aster let out a sick laugh. “That must be embarrassing.”

The ringing in his ears was deafening now. Aster was still rambling on, but  it was like Fiearius was suddenly plunged underwater: he heard nothing, he saw nothing, except a mental image of Leta, laughing and smiling brightly and sharing a drink with him just a week before. She was sick? That wasn’t possible. So she’d been lying?

Fucking lying the whole damn time.

“ — looks like a very serious condition, she’s got a funny little list here of medication, and oh!” Aster was babbling merrily. “And a timeline, looks like she’s got just a few months left — “

“Enough,” Fiearius snapped under his breath, feeling that familiar anger start to rush through his veins.

“–can’t be a pleasant way to go though–sorry, what was that?” Aster asked, enjoying this far too much and making Fiearius want to shove a leg of his chair through his stupid cocky face. “Don’t like the truth, Soliveré?”

“Shut. The fuck. Up,” Fiearius growled, glaring up at the man with every ounce of fury he had in him.

“And it is true,” Aster went on carelessly, sliding the paper closer to him and tapping a familiar scribble along the top. “That is her handwriting, is it not?”

Fiearius could barely look at it. He would have recognized that tidy handwriting anywhere — she was always leaving him lists of supplies, notes on what the ship was running low on, possible routes to the Baltimore …

“It is,” Fiearius confirmed, his voice cold as ice. “And I’ll be more than happy to shove that whole thing down your throat if you’d be so kind as to untie me.”

Aster let out a long, hearty laugh and shook his head. “Now now, no need to get violent Soliveré. It’s a simple enough issue, blood poisoning. Nothing our medical teams can’t fix.” Aster grinned maliciously. “Just gotta say the magic words.”

“Fuck you?” Fiearius guessed.

“The location, you piece of shit,” Aster barked. “The location of Richelle Donovan.”

For the first time, Fiearius felt a crack in his armor. He had no smartass remarks left.  “I don’t fucking know. Last I saw her, she was on my ship. So either your people are shit at searches or she left. And if she left, I can’t fucking help you now, can I?”

Unfortunately, even his honesty wasn’t what Aster was looking for. “Not fucking good enough,” he growled. “I’ll ask again. Where is she?”

“What about ‘I don’t know’ don’t you understand?” Fiearius snapped back.

“What about ‘your little doctor’s going to die if you don’t give me a real answer’ don’t you understand?”

I don’t fucking know!” Fiearius insisted. “She’s probably on another ship outta here by now with how bad she wanted to leave. I don’t know! She could be anywh–”

Suddenly, the door swung open once again, and Aster started, “I said I’m bus–” But he stopped and stared dumbfounded when he realized it wasn’t the officer who’d interrupted before. The person now standing in the doorway was a woman. A strangely familiar woman, thought Fiearius. A strangely familiar woman wearing a very familiar Satieran headscarf that covered her face. For just a moment, Fiearius thought he was looking at a ghost. That is, until she started speaking in broken Ridellian.

Gi’et ti madal’lin,” she said, staring at Aster and pointing at the door. Fiearius frowned at the girl curiously.

Aster was startled. “W-who are you?” he demanded.

The girl hesitated. Her eyes flicked to the floor and then she said, “Lé fidarien ti pal’ar siet,” which translated roughly to ‘the bathroom to right side’. Fiearius blinked at her slowly, now utterly confused.

Fortunately for her, Aster clearly didn’t speak Ridellian. Any Ridellian. “I don’t–what does that–” He narrowed his eyes. “Are you from Satieri?”

The girl groaned and rolled her eyes, sighing, “Dov’ha ti’arte,” before lifting up her hand and showing the back of her wrist where the thick black lines of the Society librera shone in the dull light.

Apparently, that was enough for Aster to get the picture. “W-what are you doing here?” he stammered, confusion replaced with nervousness.

Again, the eyes rolled under the shadow of her headscarf and she pointed sharply to the door. “Gi’et!” she ordered and said something unintelligible about directions to the bus stop in a threatening tone.

Aster seemed conflicted. He looked down at Fiearius and then up at the girl and finally decided it wasn’t worth the risk. “Fine,” he breathed in at last, heading to the door, but not without shouting, “I’m speaking with my supervisor about this!” as he slammed it shut behind him.

For a few moments, Fiearius and the strange visitor stared at each other in the darkness, silent and waiting. He had no idea what to say. Too much had happened within the last five minutes for him to comprehend what a Society agent with Aela’s headscarf and shitty Ridellian was doing here.

As soon as the absolute silence blanketed the place, she giggled stupidly and removed the wrap, revealing a grinning Richelle Donovan behind it. Fiearius’ jaw slackened, but before he could even begin to think of what to say, she had already launched into an excited explanation. “How exciting was that?! I can’t believe it worked! I found this in your room.” She held up the end of the scarf. “It’s so pretty. I’ve seen them in my book before. Oh yeah, I’m learning Ridellian, did I tell you that last night? I’m not very good yet. Maybe you can help me out. All Satierans know it, right? Oh and by the way, this?” She tapped her wrist where the librera was. “Don’t freak out, it’s just pen. That was in my book too. Came in handy, huh? See, aren’t you glad I stuck around? Never would have seen you get caught if I’d left when you told me to. Right?”

Fiearius could do nothing but stare at her. His entire brain seemed to have just shut off.

As she crouched down to unbind his wrists, Richelle laughed, “Come on, don’t just sit there. We’ve got some more rescuing to do.”


Chapter 43: Interrogation Pt. 2

“But that’s nothing compared to this final charge,” she went on, gazing at her seriously. “Nothing compared to kidnapping.”

Leta stared avidly at the piece of paper. “Kidnapping?” She adopted a look of surprise. “Who’s been kidnapping? That sounds serious.”

“We certainly take it seriously. Stealing a nineteen-year-old girl from her home in the dead of the night is something we take very, very seriously.”

“I’m truly glad to hear that,” said Leta earnestly. Then she breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank gods that’s not what happened last night.”

“What, exactly, do you think happened?”

“I know what happened. The girl acted of her own free will when she came aboard and she can leave whenever she likes. I’m sure she’d tell you the same thing.”

Tiya leaned back in her chair, surveying Leta through narrowed slits of her eyes. Quite abruptly, she said, “That captain of yours. Soliveré. You trust him, do you?”

For the first time, Leta was given reason to pause. Her mind flashed back to when, months ago now, Fiearius threw himself in that fighting ring with her. Or later, the look on his face when he’d spoken at Aiden’s funeral. Or much more recently, the lopsided grin he’d cast her when he passed over a whiskey bottle and spilled his life story.

“Yes,” she stated quietly, “I do.”

Tiya arched her eyebrows high on her forehead. “You do, do you? Now that is touching. Foolish of you, but touching. You know, you don’t strike me as sentimental.”

“I’m not. But people can surprise you.”


“Indeed.” Tiya cocked her head to the side and abruptly slid the papers closer again. This time, her smile was eerie and broad. “And we know a few surprising things about you, Miss Adler, don’t we?”

Before Leta could begin to guess where this was going, Tiya flipped over the paper and darted her eyes over it. “Tell me. Does that captain you like so much know about your employers?”

Leta’s heart was beginning to flutter in her chest. But all she said was, her voice flat, “The hospital? Unity Healthcare Clinic? Sure.”

“No, no, not those employers, my dear.” She looked up, her smile glinting. “Does he know you work for the Society?“

Leta went very still, pressing her palms into the table. “I don’t,” she said, her first honest confession in the whole interrogation. “I don’t work for them.”

Tiya pressed her lips together and murmured, “No, hm? Says right here in their records that you do — “

“That’s not true,” said Leta at once, resisting the urge to snatch the paper out of her hands. “I’d never work for them again. Ever. I worked in their labs, but I left years ago — “

“And you think Soliveré will believe that?”

Her words sliced through the room and halted her in place. That was yet another thing Fiearius would probably never forgive her for, she thought, feeling a brush of hysteria.

“Of course he will,” she said quietly. Tiya’s eyes — it was infuriating — actually softened with pity.

“Listen,” she said, leaning over and patting her hand, “Listen, Leta. You tell us where Richelle Donovan is, and Soliveré will never hear from us that you’re working for the people who want him and his brother dead. How’s that sound, Miss Adler? We won’t tell him you’re a Society spy.”

Silence followed her words, and then Officer Tiya leaned over and carefully, painstakingly, unrolled Leta’s sleeve for her — exposing her own Society mark, which somehow looked brighter, shining. It was the mark she kept hidden beneath her sleeve since her first day aboard the Dionysian.

Leta looked down her arm, then up at the officer.

“I’m not a spy. Richelle wasn’t kidnapped, and you can tell him whatever you like,” she breathed at last.  “Tell him, go ahead. It doesn’t matter — it doesn’t even anymore.”

“Oh no? It doesn’t matter?” Tiya said, almost tauntingly. “Why — are you perhaps ready to confess? Or! Are you planning to leave that scum of a crew after all?”

Leta could have laughed. Or cried. All at once, she felt a wave of emotion so powerful that it exhausted her, and all she could do was mumble, “Yes, something like that.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“I didn’t kidnap anyone,” said Fiearius breezily, as if he and Aster were out to brunch and not two hours into this interrogation. Aster was seated across from him, practically tearing his hair out in frustration as Fiearius ignored his every question, kicking the edge of his foot against the floor cheerfully, “This is boring. Let’s talk about something else. You seen any good films lately?”

His words were met with a raw growl of frustration as Aster slapped the middle of the table. The gun was still sitting pointedly between them, untouched for now, though Aster kept inching his hand toward it and then seeming to decide against it and dug his hands into his hair instead.

“There were witnesses,” he insisted for what had to be the twentieth time. “They saw you put a gun to her head and heard you threaten to kill her and watched you drag her away.”

“That sounds like a good one. I always like a good kidnapping drama. What’s it called? I don’t have much time for theaters anymore, but if I get a chance,” said Fiearius through a laugh.

Aster’s face was growing redder and redder. He tightened his fist. “Listen. I’ve got a team searching your ship right now, tearing it apart piece by piece. Any second now they’ll return with enough evidence to put you to death. So — how about you make your confession now?”

“What confession?” Fiearius asked innocently.

“What confession?! How can you even–it’s irrefutable!”

“No it’s not.”

“It is! We have at least eight confirmed testimonies that all line up. We have security feed of you entering the building. We have feed of you leaving the building. With her,” he snapped.

“Not me,” Fiearius remarked shortly.

“Of course, we made a mistake,” Aster groaned sarcastically, leaning back in his chair so hard it nearly tipped over. “There are plenty of people who look just like you. You’re incredibly commonplace.” He gestured vaguely to Fiearius who just blinked back at him absently. “We just mistook you for someone else.”

“Great. So can I go now?”

Aster’s eyes scrunched, his fists clenched, his teeth bared and he shouted, “Just tell me where she is!

Fiearius tilted his head curiously. “Where who is?”

“Richelle Donovan!”

“Who’s that?”

With a snarl, Aster suddenly pushed himself to his feet and pulled his gun with him. Fiearius followed the trajectory of the weapon curiously, his head tilted in interest. The Paraven police force wasn’t known for brutality, exactly, and there was simply no way this man had the authority to pull that trigger.

Still, it was quite a sight, watching this man struggle to release the safety mechanism of his gun (his hands were shaking with anger). He’d very nearly completed the gesture when the door behind him suddenly banged open, admitting another officer.

“Sir,” greeted the younger man. “We’ve got something you need to see.”

“Now, Shaw? Now?” cried Aster. “Can’t you see I’m — “

“Discussing arts and culture?” suggested Fiearius.

“ — busy?” finished Aster angrily. “Surely this can wait — “

“No. It can’t.” The young man lifted a slip of paper he held in his hand. “You’ll like this.”

Dropping the gun on the table, grumbling to himself, Aster joined the young man near the door. A few minutes passed in which they whispered back and forth, a murmured conversation. At last, Aster turned around, holding the paper in his hands.